As expected following the February Call Meeting, problems were still brewing in the church. Now, more and more members were complaining about not just the lack of cohesion between Pastor Payton and the Deacon Board, but also the summary sheets handed out during Business Meetings wasn’t adding. After making my feelings known to those in charge of handling the money, I started leaving notes on the offering envelopes that included as much as a penny. On the 1st Sunday in September 2010 – the beginning of the church’s Revival week – I put something different in the offering envelope. On that day, when they opened that sealed piece of paper, they found a letter that was put on my heart to write; a letter that was the easiest, yet hardest thing I’d ever written up to that point. This is “The Letter.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this piece of paper is being placed in an envelope, and into the offering basket on 1st Sunday in September. Honestly, I can’t think of a better coincidence if there was one. This day used to be the biggest day on the (church) calendar. It was a day that my grandmother and many others held dear. They put their hearts, souls, spirits, and everything God had blessed them with to make each year just as, if not more so special than the year before. But this year, I’ve been blessed with the idea that instead of giving money as my offering, I offer my feelings. Not just my feelings on this day, but also my feelings of disappointment that the church I once held so dear has become a shell of its former self, with people lying to themselves and everyone else that Springfield is growing in a positive light. I’ll say it right here, and if you ask me, I’ll tell you the same: it’s a boldface lie!
I know a lot of talk is going around about my recent notes on the back of these very same offering envelopes. Understand that I didn’t do that to start talk about me. The same reason I wrote those is the same reason I wrote this: the truth. Lately, every time I tell someone (near the area or closer to my home in Richmond) that I go to (this church) in Troy, VA, they look at me like some kind of fool. Usually, their follow up question goes something like this, “I’ve heard a lot about (that church). They don’t do right with their money, do they?”
It’s one thing to hear that question once or twice, but to constantly hear it is proof enough that something isn’t right. Add that to the fact that anytime someone brings up the money issues (numbers not adding up right, mysterious pay roll deductions, etc.), people are shot down, and told to keep their mouths shut. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and people want to know where the “rumors” are coming from and why. Why shut them down when they want to know what’s right and wrong in the church, and maybe even prevent any more wrongs from happening? But I can’t speak for them; I can only speak for myself.
And what I can say for myself is I can’t wholeheartedly delude myself any longer, and hope that the money I give to God is used properly here. I’ll give my money to a non-profit organization, or a homeless person on the street before I turn it over to a church that’s not using their given funds as Jehovah intended.
I also can say that I know there are talks about finding out who is responsible for some “Anti-tithe organization/agenda”. I’ll say this with my hand on the Bible that the only person I know of doing this is myself. I don’t stand with anyone, or ask anyone to back me outside of God. If people see my feelings, and feel the same enough to follow what I’m writing, well so be it. But I urge each and every member to give back to the Lord in his or her own way. As long as that money goes to help someone or something in a positive way, you are giving your tithe. You give your best; you’re honoring the Lord. I highly doubt the members of Springfield are sitting on $10,000,000 as one guest preacher noted a few weeks back, but I know we have something to give. Don’t give out of habit, but out of love for your fellow man. The only agenda I have is to return (the church) back to the church I enjoyed going to. I want the church that uplifted you, and people weren’t backstabbing each other for a meaningless church title. I want (the church) to have a fearless group of leaders and members who standup when they know something is wrong. I want the fear of God back in (the church)!
I know a couple of months back, a letter was written that got some talk, but no real details were given outside of those in the inner core of the church. You know – the existing, non-existent clique that everyone laughed about when Pastor Payton said, “There are no cliques in (the church),” earlier this year.
Well, I want whoever is reading this, and whoever reads this to let it be known. This letter isn’t given in secrecy. If you want to see it, ask me, and I’ll give it to you. This letter is the warning. The people of (the church), the real members who actually care about the health of this church are too afraid to stand up and voice their anger because they feel the numbers are too great. Instead of voicing their hurt, they walk away. I don’t care about numbers because Jehovah being #1 is the only number that matters. If you read this, and feel the same way I do, show it. Make a copy of this letter, and stuff it in every offering envelope you use until we get (the church) back to the church it was; when people weren’t ashamed to have their name associated with this church. When this church stood as a meeting place between man and God. To know where every penny we give goes, and that it’s being used properly. That’s what I want, and I know a lot of others want it, too. But it won’t happen unless you stand up and follow the example of Jesus Christ. He rebelled and fought the establishment that supposedly stood by the law of the Lord. Jesus kicked out the moneychangers in his Father’s temple. Don’t let your disappointment steal your love of Jesus and his sanctuary.
I want you to know that I write this letter in the love of Jesus Christ. I have no ill will for any member in (the church). I can disagree with you and still hug you because each and every one of you is a family member in Christ. This is not a disrespectful shot at Pastor Payton, his family, the deacons, their families, or anyone else. With God’s help, I just want to bring the real (church) back. I don’t want my belief that Jehovah will make an example of out of our church like He’s done to so many other churches become (the church’s) reality.
Your loving brother in Christ,
James Aubrey Bullock
Written: 9/4/2010 at 7:54:40 pm
No less than two hours later did I hear from Trustee Allen White about “The Letter”, and how the Trustee Board would have a, “retaliation,” for me. Two weeks later, Deacon Bill “Asphalt” Richards confronted me about “The Letter” to ask what my true intentions were. I explained myself and he expressed his similar feelings. But what would become a recurring theme during this journey, I asked Deacon Richards his opinion on what needed to be done to make our mutual dreams a reality.
Dcn. Richards shook his head as he said, “There’s more stuff goin’ on that most don’t even know about.”
On the fifth Sunday of October 2010, I was able to have my own Call Meeting to read “The Letter” and let anyone who had questions for me ask. I stood in front of the congregation, my family, the Deacon Board, the Trustee Board, Pastor Payton and his family for an hour and a half, giving my feelings, answering questions about what I would do if I could change the church while letting people who wanted to make a change voice their opinions and solutions.
By the end of my Call Meeting, it was revealed that a few church members had confronted the Financial Committee with the same concerns I had, but weren’t allowed to join the committee as Deacon Dewey Holly suggested people concerned over the church finances should do. Shortly after my Call Meeting, dates for the Finance Committee meetings started changing, yet no one new was allowed to join the committee.